He’s Got The Blues
Celebrated musician finds a home in Sacramento
By Jessica Laskey
Start with David Dot Hale’s voice. Not just any voice, but a rich and expressive timbre with a half-smile behind it. Now watch him don his red hat and transform into his blues persona, Blind Lemon Peel. Finally, savor the guttural growl that is the vocalist’s signature.
“I call what I do ‘progressive blues,’” says Dot Hale, a native New Yorker who relocated to Sacramento from Los Angeles two years ago. “It’s an evolution. I appreciate the blues, where it came from, what it’s about, what the heritage and ethnicity of that music is. I try to anchor my roots firmly in the past while broadening the genre. Traditional blues and art house cabaret is my thing.”
Dot Hale has blues in his blood. His dad toured cruise ships as a saxophonist, his uncle played with Jimmy Dorsey, and his babysitter introduced him to Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker when Dot Hale was 8. With so much music around him, it was only a matter of time before Dot Hale entered the industry. He started playing in blues bands at age 14.
To support his blues habit, Dot Hale got a job in advertising, which he calls “very, very fortunate. A lot of my musician friends were struggling—flipping burgers, doing anything they could to make ends meet.”
He used his musical talents, writing jingles and underscoring advertisements that led to awards and collaborations with big names, including Chubby Checker. “Musicians related well to me because I was also a musician,” Dot Hale says.
When not making music for his day job, Dot Hale played every club he could, including famous rooms such as B.B. King’s, Tramps and legendary long-gone New York clubs The Bottom Line and Mikell’s.
As his advertising job morphed into TV work, including creation of a musical comedy cartoon called “Generation O” about an 8-year-old girl who’s a famous rock star but still has a bedtime and has to eat her broccoli, Dot Hale found himself in Los Angeles. Having loved California “from the moment I saw it,” Dot Hale moved west and doubled down on his music, performing at LA clubs and festivals as Blind Lemon Peel.
“I realized that I really love music and it’s the only thing that ever really made me happy,” he says. “I needed to do what made me happy.”
In connecting with West Coast musicians, Dot Hale met tenor saxophonist Bobby Hurricane Spencer, who became the father Dot Hale never had. “He’s a mentor, friend, confidante,” Dot Hale says. “When we started playing together, it was an incredible evolution. He helped me find my voice and articulate and fulfill my dreams.”
Two years ago, Dot Hale and his wife Jasmine, a partner in a Sonoma Creek law firm, moved north, having been told “Northern California is the new Chicago” for blues music. One of the first things they did was take in a concert at The Sofia. Dot Hale fell in love with the venue and told Jasmine, “Someday, I’m gonna play here.” That someday arrives Nov. 4, a testament to Dot Hale’s talent, perseverance and ability to find community.
“I’ve never been made to feel as welcome as I have here,” the Pocket resident says. “The Sacramento Blues Society and the musicians who play here really appreciate the music. It’s not a competition. This is what the blues was meant to be, a community.”
For more information, visit blindlemonpeel.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.